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Don’t Let This Fake Friend Ruin Your Career | Part I

Don’t you hate it when you’re watching a movie, and person who you thought was a nice, useful character turns out to be the bad guy?  And you think aww man, I thought they were helping but turns out they were plotting disaster!!  Boo, hiss.

Well, there’s someone in your life right now who you think is your friend.  You think she’s helping you by keeping you safe.  But she’s NOT.  And I’m here to straight up call her out, because she’s holding you back.

Her name is ‘Avoidance.’

Avoidance shows up and tells you to preemptively defend yourself against something that might hurt.

And it’s true, sometimes Avoidance can be useful.  Like when you’re about to grab a hot pan out of the oven – Avoidance knows that you’d burn your bare hand, so she reminds you to grab an oven mitt.  Or when you’d like to wear plaid pants and a propeller hat to go shopping at the mall, she gently points out that people will probably make fun of you, so you’d better stick with capris and a sleek updo.

Sounds good, right?  I mean, if something’s going to hurt, it’s a good idea to avoid doing it.  (Duh, Jenika.  Why are you even writing this post?)

Well, although Avoidance can keep you out of the hospital or prevent you from making serious fashion mistakes, her influence can spill over into areas where she has no business being.  Like your photography career.

There are a lot of things to fear in being a photographer – lots of places where you might get hurt.  People might think you’re a bad artist.  Strangers might criticize photos that are dear to your heart.  You might lose money.  Someone else might steal your best ideas.  Your friends might become bitter because you don’t photograph them for free.  A client might get mad and tell everyone not to hire you.  You might become so successful that you have no time for family.  Or you might totally and completely fail.

Yes, all of that would stink.  So Avoidance keeps you running away from potential success by telling you that you need to avoid potential failure.  At All Costs.  “Don’t try photographing babies – there are too many people doing it already.  Don’t ask the local museum to feature your work, they’ll make fun of you and hang up.  Don’t try off camera flash, you’ll just fumble during the session and look unprofessional.”

Avoidance keeps her power by reminding you of all the times she’s saved you from being hurt.  “You’d better listen to me,” she says, “I know what’s good for you.  I know how to keep you safe.”

NONSENSE.  To quote Colonel Potter, “That is grade-A 100% bull cookies!”

Here’s the truth about Avoidance:  She causes more problems than she prevents.

Success requires taking steps that will draw attention to you.  Yes, that may expose you to ridicule or shame.  But avoiding every possible negative outcome will guarantee that you’ll be forever pressing your nose against the windowpane of others’ success, on the outside looking in, longing for but never having the business you want.

And here’s the other truth about Avoidance:

If you avoid the things you fear in life, you will never learn that they rarely actually happen, and even if they do, they aren’t as bad as you think.

When you do the thing you’re afraid to do, you often find that the outcome you feared doesn’t actually happen.

And even if it does happen, it’s not so bad.  You won’t die, the sky won’t come crashing down, and your world will not collapse.

But the only way to really learn this is to do the thing you’re afraid of doing.

If you’re afraid of entering your photos in a contest, not only will you never win an award, you will also never really learn that 1) the judges aren’t there to tell you that you suck, and 2) even if they did give you a critique, it wouldn’t be so bad, and you could probably learn from it and become a better photographer.

If you’re afraid of marketing your business in a wealthier area of town, you might worry that people will think you’re foolish or a fraud, or that no one will call and you’ll feel like a failure.  But if you don’t, you’ll not only not get clients in that area, you’ll never learn that nothing really happens when a marketing campaign happens to be a dud.  No one calls and says “Hey I saw your campaign and I think you’re a fraud,” or “Who do you think you are, marketing over here?”  You won’t learn that those are the voices of your self critic, not actual people in the real world.

By continuing to avoid exposing yourself to the full breadth of your fears, you are increasing their power.  By confronting them and seeing that they don’t actually matter, and your life becomes instantly easier.

The world is not full of hot pans, so don’t go through life wearing oven mitts. 

Because here’s what Avoidance doesn’t want you to know:  Even if the worst imaginable outcome came true – even if some judge called you up to the stage and said “Why did you enter this contest?  Your work is awful!!” or even if someone called and berated you, “Stop advertising here!  You’re a fraud!” – what would happen?  Sure, you’d have a hot face and want to disappear, and maybe cry into your pillow that night.  But what then?  Would the sky explode?  Would your life crumble before your eyes?  Would your best friend abandon you?  Would your brain go into lockdown so that you forget everything you know and be unable to try again?

No.  The sun would rise the next morning, your sister would still call for your weekly chit-chats, your kids would still want to dance in the kitchen after breakfast.  Then you’d get back to your computer, and you’d say “Okay, how can I do it better this time?”

Avoiding what you think will be painful may sound like a good idea.  But Avoidance is rarely your friend.  Avoidance will wither your business, sap your energy, and snuff out your dreams.   Avoidance tags along with creative careers so that it can kill them.

Now that we’ve called her out, Avoidance is going to tell you to ignore me.  Then she’ll change her shape and her strategies.  She’ll keep you on Facebook instead of hustling for more business.  She’d rather see you hoard your best images on your computer than put them out into the world, come what may.

So we’re going talk about how to identify and overcome your pal Avoidance in the next post.  See you then.

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  1. Christina Graham on May 15, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Another excellent post! Thank you so much for sharing!

    “Even if the worst imaginable outcome came true – even if some judge called you up to the stage and said “Why did you enter this contest? Your work is awful!!” or even if someone called and berated you, “Stop advertising here! You’re a fraud!” – what would happen? Sure, you’d have a hot face and want to disappear, and maybe cry into your pillow that night. But what then? Would the sky explode? Would your life crumble before your eyes? Would your best friend abandon you? Would your brain go into lockdown so that you forget everything you know and be unable to try again?”

    That really resonates with me even outside of photography. I have been dealing with some not-so-nice people for most of my life, but you are right. Who cares what they say? It doesn’t change anything! Thank you so much. I feel better about this situation already. Keep up the good work!

    • Jenika on May 15, 2012 at 7:11 pm

      Sorry you’re dealing with that – but whooo baby, are you ever RIGHT!!! It doesn’t change a thing! You’ve got this. Keep going!

  2. Heather Sikkenga on May 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    Where you directing this post right to me because i think you were. I’m so afraid to stop avoiding sometimes cause I am scared to put myself out there. I’m scared that people will not like my work and I’m of failing. The thing is and I know this, “failing to try will result in failure.” I’m going to stop avoiding the things that I shouldn’t be avoiding..

    • Jenika on May 15, 2012 at 7:45 pm

      Thumbs up, Heather. We all do it – you’re not alone. I’m going to share some more avoidance-killing strategies in my next post that I hope will help you on your journey. In the meantime….keep trying! Just do it. It will be okay!!!!

  3. Monika on May 15, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Thank you sooooo much for this post!!! Poeple need such a reminder from time to time. We all seem to know it, but when it comes to difficult times in our lives, decisions to be made and paths to be conquered, we all tend to hide and try to wait through it. And I love this part: “The world is not full of hot pans, so don’t go through life wearing oven mitts.” Spot on!!!
    Thank you!

    • Jenika on May 15, 2012 at 8:53 pm

      Thank YOU!

      As the queen of “hide and try to wait it through” – I can personally attest that hiding and oven-mitting up is the fastest way to Regretsville. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  4. maria ramil on May 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Thank you for this Jenika: very encouraging as usual.
    Actually, taking risks and getting it wrong also helps you to plan better for next time (There’s always tomorrow)

    • Jenika on May 15, 2012 at 8:51 pm

      Amen Maria!

      Hard, hard, hard lesson to learn, especially when you’re on the beginning end of it.

  5. Melissa W on May 15, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    I *heart* your blog posts 🙂
    Right before I sat down to read this I was working on my 2013 business/marketing plan so that I can stop making excuses for avoiding opportunities to market myself next year that I’m already regretting this year missing out on.

    • Jenika on May 15, 2012 at 8:50 pm

      Look at you being all ahead of the game!! AWESOME!!

  6. Janna on May 17, 2012 at 3:28 am

    Avoidance holds me back from so many things, but it’s even worse when it comes to my new photography business. I write things on my white board or I tell myself, “Tomorrow I will do that.” and I never do. I’m always so scared or nervous. I hate it. I’m looking forward to part 2!!!

    • Jenika on May 17, 2012 at 3:29 am

      🙂 You’re not alone!

  7. Melinda on May 17, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Totally hit home!!! My avoidance has a sister she likes to use against me too….introvert or shyness. Even if I muster up the nerve to step outside of my comfort zone I panic thinking I’ll end up being too awkward or my personality won’t shine as much as I want it to. I know it isn’t true because I’ve spoken in front of lots of people through past jobs, but because this is ME I’m promoting or showing it’s more intense.

  8. Candace on June 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    This post was perfectly on time!
    Thank you! Another great read.

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